ENIGMA by Anthony Bondi at Sin City Gallery
By Laura Henkel,
Las Vegas has long been a destination for entertainment, a visitor’s paradise of forgetfulness and excess. Many describe the environment as surreal. And yet, like the Dadaist’s disdain for urbanity, it appears as well, that artists who live within this bright world of guile artfulness, entertainment and sexuality have their own notion of urban life.
Anthony Bondi is one of these artists. His work serves as a commentary on the transient nature of the city, and of the idea of show, beauty and contemporary culture, and yet also offers a view into the world of artists who for all purposes function outside of the world of the casinos, who exist within this realm, but have another way of being and living, sometimes invisible, but always creating.
Overall, Bondi’s meticulous hand made collages have a retro feel, an archaism that reminds one of aesthetic of art deco and 1950’s black and white magazines. While Bondi’s work is decidedly late 20th century if not contemporary, it does use the idioms seen frequently in the collaborative collages and drawings and collages produced by the Parisian and Spanish Surrealists of the early 20th century. These works in the original French were called “cadavre exquis” (exquisite corpse or rotating corpse) and involved each participant adding a word or image to the paper, resulting the juxtaposition of seemingly unrelated imagery.
As well in classic 20th century Surrealist pictures, particularly that of Remedios Varo and Yves Tanguy strange often unrelated elements are often set against an expanse of sky, which may have seemed otherworldly to the Parisians, but might seem like simply home, or the desert to Nevada. Nevertheless this plain of sand has its own esoteric qualities even for the local. While Bondi has also worked in kinetic sculpture for the Burning Man Festival, he clearly has also enjoyed the creative force of automatism.
Bondi’s style is part of the heritage of Surrealism in America that spans so many mediums from artistic greats like Robert Rauschenberg who also collected and assembled images and objects to make remarkable large-scale tableaux. In fact, the influence of Dada and Surrealism is far reaching and even makes it imprint on the moving image and advertisement. As such, Bondi’s work displays a dedication to pursuing a form of automatism, to ensuring that handmade creative works are continually at the heart of an artist’s production.
It must also be mentioned that Bondi’s works are intrinsically related to Las Vegas’ artistic culture of the late 1990’s that met and flowered at the artist’s meeting place Enigma Café (1993-2000). A meeting place for exchange and collaboration; it was the center for artistic creativity. As part of this community, Bondi created a series of Flyer Collages, a “candy wrapper” for the café’s handwritten monthly event flyers.
These kind of collaborative magazines and print materials have a long history in America including the well known VVV magazine of the 1940’s and American surrealists for some time have encountered and absorbed and reinterpreted surreal imagery numerous artists, we need to only look at the work of the early 20th century artist Peter Blume and expand our horizons to film making today such as Anja Marais and even more famous Matthew Barney.
For its part, the Enigma Café was a place where making art mattered, and today, The Arts Factory, the location of Sin City Gallery, carries on this legacy. It is indeed a rare opportunity to see the results of this hidden subculture.
Works about the café include a series of monochromatic flyer covers with the name Enigma Café across mysterious imagery, that is at once puzzling and captivating, a tongue in cheek picture featuring a iconic coffee cup and saucer at the center, besieged by a crowd of reaching arms; Alfred Hitchcock’s somber profile sits outlandishly on a cup, and vintage image of a child leans in, adding to a sense of inversion and absurdity. Other images are more classical and enigmatic; a Grecian woman is posed next to a dark well of coffee, and botanical elements. A reclining nude draped in a white cloth recalls the classic feminine muse and model. Each work is graphically appealing and sufficiently mystifying to fascinate.
Enigma is truly a taste of nostalgia and exquisitely brewed to perfection.
Sin City Gallery
107 E Charleston Blvd #100
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